Humility: Who Needs It?

Psalm 25:1-10, Mark 1:9-15

I have a friend who is a  very successful and multi-talented person. When he attended high school, he played short-stop on a State Championship Baseball Team, and he also represented North Carolina in the Shrine Bowl, starting at wide receiver. He is the kind of guy that can play golf once a year, and still shoot in the ’70s when he does. He is more than an athlete. He has also enjoyed good careers in retail and as a policeman right here in Winston-Salem. At present, in his late 60’s, he travels the world training America’s allies in Africa and the Middle East in marksmanship and anti-terrorism techniques. He has a lot going for him. I once asked him his favorite song. He didn’t answer. He just started to sing:

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror,
‘cause I get better looking each day.

To know me is to love me
I must be a (heck) of a man
Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,
But I doin’ the best that I can.

If you know my friend, you know he sings this song tongue-in-cheek. Despite all his attributes he is a modest and humble man, still learning, still sharing what he learns, still trying to get better at everything he does.

In verses 8 and 9, Psalm 25 declares that “(God)…leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.”

There are two ways to be humble: 1) A humble person may be a person of low estate, lacking in property, education, and prospects. Or, 2) a humble person may be a person of property, education, and prospects who maintains a modest opinion of him or herself.

I think it is interesting that Jesus was at one and the same time the most remarkable man who ever lived and remarkably humble.

He was the most remarkable man who ever lived. When he was baptized by John, as he was coming up out of the water, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.” He was remarkably humble. Jesus did not immediately announce to the world, “Hey! I am the son of God!” Instead, he went into the wilderness, and he remained forty days, tempted by Satan.” Mark does not give us the details, but Matthew and Luke do. They agree that Jesus was tempted at three points. First, he was tempted to hedonism, to use his powers to satisfy his own needs and desires. Second, he was tempted to egoism, to do something spectacular to draw attention to himself. Third, he was tempted to materialism, to personal wealth and power. Jesus withstood every temptation. Mark tells us that he then came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Like Jesus, we are tempted by the devil. Unlike Jesus, we often give-in.
Though we don’t use the language, we think that hedonism, egoism, and materialism are good things. Few of us do anything that does not serve to benefit us just a little. And none of us reach adulthood untouched by sin and selfishness. We all remember the sins of our youth; we all pray that God will not.

The Psalmist gives us hope when he says that God “instructs sinners in the way.” Thankfully, we don’t have to have an unbroken chain of goodness for God to give our lives direction. We simply have to be humble enough to acknowledge our own failures and our need for God and God’s direction.

Those who are humble–and possess a modest opinion of themselves, are said to possess humility. Some of you will remember Sandy Seeber who taught us the Enneagram. Her husband, the late Ron Seeber was a good friend to me. I once asked him for a definition of humility. Immediately, Ron responded, “Humility is the ability to reflect reality!” That’s it. The humble person does not think too much of himself, he thinks with sober judgment. Nor does she think too little of herself, she understands the gifts and opportunities that God has given to her. The humble person reflects reality. She knows what she doesn’t know and her life reflects it. He knows what he knows and acts on it. The humble person is ahead in the game of life, for it is easier for him or her to receive instruction and follow God in the way.

I am going to finish these comments on Psalm 25 with a flourish. I am introducing for the first time, ever, a new verse to an old song. It goes:

Lord Jesus, I want to be humble
‘Cause You’re perfect in every way;
I can’t wait to be more like you;
So show me the way–today!

My wife would add, “And do it quickly!” Humility: who needs it?  We all do!


The Pastor


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